Vienna is a model city for livability, renowned for affordable housing, prolific green space and seamless mobility networks. It has the charm of a historic city, balanced with the practicalities of a fast-growing metropolis, and serves as a world-class example of how to foster social equity in urban environments.

A short history of urban planning in VIENNA


Vienna has a long and rich urban planning history. About 2,000 years ago, a Roman settlement established where the inner city of Vienna lies today. The settlement was enclosed by a wall, up to three meters thick in some places, setting the boundaries within which modern civilization in Vienna began. The main axes of that settlement were situated where Jordangasse lies today, and traces of the Roman settlement can still be seen in Michaelerplatz.


Vienna evolved during the following key periods:


The Middle Ages


  • In the 12th century, a medieval settlement, bordered by a polygon-shaped fortification, established around St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The polygonal border, established as a result of flooding patterns, continues to influence the shape of Vienna’s inner city to this day

  • The land within the settlement was organized into long-stretched lots and narrow, tightly-spaced laneways. As the settlement expanded, so too did the street pattern. New streets and squares were established in a manner that optimized trade and communication

  • The legacy of some major developments in the middle ages can still be seen today, including the formation of Judenplatz in the Jewish Quarter, and the churches and chapels at Hofburg Palace


The Baroque Period 


  • The Baroque period swept through Vienna in the 17th and 18th centuries, leaving two marks upon the city. The first, was the configuration of street axes, allowing for long and vast sight lines to key points of interest, and facilitating efficient access to the countryside. The axis running from the city centre to the Belvedere Palace today provides one example of this. The second was the creation of magnificent, Italian-inspired Baroque buildings and gardens. Examples of these can be seen today at the many preserved palaces across the city

  • A second fortification, the Linienwall, was constructed during the Baroque period, providing the city with additional protection


The Gründerzeit Period


  • The Gründerzeit was a period of industrialization and economic prosperity in the 19th century

  • During this period, the city fortifications were removed and the awe-inspiring Ringstrasse and the Gürtel ring roads were built. Grand buildings of varying styles were constructed along the Ringstrasse, examples of which include the Austrian Parliament Building, Votivkirche and the Vienna State Opera House. Land outside of the inner ring was segmented into grid-type lots and special zones were designated for monumental buildings

  • Vienna’s 23 districts were formed during this period

  • The city’s revolutionary light rail transit network, designed by Otto Wagner in his 1893 General Regulation Plan for Vienna, was also built during this time. The Stadtbahn laid the framework for the development of Vienna’s modern transit network 


Red Vienna


  • Red Vienna was the period between 1918 and 1934, celebrated for the success of the socialist policies - particularly housing policies - put in place at that time. It was during the Red Vienna period that the government set the stage for housing for the next century to come

  • Similar to many cities at that time, housing in Vienna was overcrowded and of terribly low quality. The policies of the Red Vienna socialist government led to the government-funded construction of high-quality housing blocks accommodating people of mixed incomes and mixed tenures. Housing blocks were complemented by services and amenities to foster social interactions. The principles established during this time were wildly popular and continue to be a central pillar of Vienna’s housing model today


Post-War Planning


  • The culmination of WWII marked a turning point for land use planning in Vienna. A commission of experts, tasked with identifying planning priorities in the postwar era, called for the preservation of the historic inner city by banning any modifications to building heights and street patterns

  • During this period, planning priorities shifted, from a historic and monumental focus to a pragmatic and human-centered approach. An extract from a 1946 planning file states that “the human being, the single individual, should be the standard against which all reconstruction concepts and planning must be measured”


Modern Planning

  • One of Vienna's top planning priorities in the coming years relates to population growth. The city is expecting population growth rates exceeding 9% per year, which translates to a requirement for 130,000 new residential units by 2025



  • Population: 1.8 million

  • Population of the metropolitan area: 2.6 million

  • Population density: 4,434 people/km2

  • Almost 50 percent of the land in Vienna is made up of green space

  • Two-thirds of Viennese residents live in government-subsidized housing

  • 80 percent of Viennese residents rent housing

  • About one-quarter of Austria’s population lives in Vienna

  • Today, transit represents 40 percent of the modal split in Vienna



The Vienna City Guide steps into the world of the Vienna Model, shedding light on the city’s wildly successful formula for equitable urban development. The guide is organized by district, and features the following plans and projects:


  • 1st District - Inner City: The Inner City, Ringstrasse, Donaukanal

  • 2nd District - Leopoldstadt: Prater Park, Karmelitermarkt

  • 3rd District - Landstrasse: Hundertwasser House, Zollamtssteg Arch Bridge, Stadtpark

  • 6th District - Mariahilfer: Mariahilfer Strasse

  • 10th District - Favoriten: Wienerberg City, George Washington Hof

  • 15th District - Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus: Gürtel Regeneration, Urban Loritz-Platz junction, Yppenplatz market

  • 22nd District - Donaustadt: Danube River, Donau City, Seestadt 

  • 23rd District - Leising: Wohnpark Alt-Erlaa




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Year published: 2018

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